Alpha, a top contender to unseat I'll Have Another from Triple Crown royalty, was scratched this morning due to fitness issues. The Godolphin Racing 3 year-old ran a fever of 103 degrees last night. His temperature had returned to normal by morning, but Alpha's trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, expressed concern in an interview with David Greening of the Daily Racing Form:
"It’s just not the thing to do," said McLaughlin, who discussed the situation with Godolphin Racing manager Simon Crisford. "It’s a demanding race, the mile and a half. We need to be 110 percent and we’re not."
Alpha missed a training session last week and hasn't breezed since last Sunday.
This absence leaves I'll Have Another without another top competitor. Alpha had, perhaps, the best pedigree of any horse in the race, being sired by the great Bernardini (A.P. Indy - Cara Rafaela by Quiet American) and was out of Munnaya by Nijinsky II. His pedigree shows great distance ability and champion history, and would have given Alpha a certain advantage in the Belmont.
Alpha won the Grade 3 Withers Stakes and placed in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial earlier this year. He finished 12th in the Kentucky Derby and skipped the Preakness Stakes.
This is more good news for Doug O'Neill and I'll Have Another, but also for contender Union Rags. Union Rags loves smaller fields, and this should improve his chances even more. Dullahan, Union Rags, Optimizer, and I'll Have Another are the only horses left in the Belmont field with prior Triple Crown experience.